VON Sarnia-Lambton workers threatening strike action

(File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / 4774344sean)

About two dozen VON Sarnia-Lambton employees are threatening to strike if necessary to back their contract demands.

LiUNA Local 3000 Business Representative Ken Sharpe said a strike vote has been taken, authorized the bargaining committee by a majority vote to call a legal strike.

The workers have been without a contract since March of 2019.

Sharpe said one of the most important issues is that VON has chosen to classify a number of workers as casual employees.

“Although they work regularly scheduled hours and see the most vulnerable clients in the schools, they’ve classified them as casual which doesn’t allow them sick time, benefits, bereavement leaves, all the things that would be afforded to a full-time employee.”

Sharpe said the message he’s hearing from the nurses is that they want a little respect.

“They’re in the middle of a pandemic and their employer, who can give them one per cent increases for each of the years, has chosen not to give them that, not because they can’t afford it, but because they’re afraid of the precedent it would set elsewhere.”

Currently, VON is governed by Bill 124 which restricts maximum monetary compensation to one per cent each year.

Sharpe said the workers have been offered a 0.5 per cent lump sum payment, which he said is less than $5 per week.

“So they’ve offered less than the one per cent increase. To be clear, a one per cent increase in this unit is 24 cents an hour.”

Sharpe said a strike date has not been set.

“We’re not looking to put these nurses out on the street and we’re not looking to put the vulnerable clientele in harms way whatsoever. We’ve committed to giving VON as much notice should we go forward with the labour disruption.”

Sharpe said they’re hoping to continue to talk and see if they can get to a deal.

“We’re just asking the employer to acknowledge that their employees who’ve they called healthcare heroes for the last year and two months, we’re just asking the employer to actually step up and prove it now. Give them what you can, show them you care about them.”

In an email to BlackburnNews.com, the VON said it is committed to the bargaining process and it looks forward to a timely resolution of the matter.

-With files from Stephanie Chaves.